A new World Bank draft report (Pacific Possible: Health and Non-Communicable Diseases) highlights the threats NCDs pose to Pacific economies as heart disease, cancer, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases cause an ever increasing number of deaths in the region. Lead by World Bank Senior Health Economist Xiaohui Hou, the report estimates economic losses related to NCD mortality to reach between 8.5 and 14.3 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) by 2040. NCD morbidity is projected to reach 18.8 percent of GDP by 2040, which represents a 5.6 percent increase from 2015.
Government healthcare expenditures of Pacific countries are already considerably higher compared to other lower-middle income countries and NCDs put enormous pressure on healthcare systems across the region. The report warns that in some cases health expenditures might reach unsustainable levels.
The authors suggests a number of key countermeasures which, if acted upon, can help reduce economic costs. These recommendations include raising taxes on tobacco products and sugary beverages, countering aggressive marketing which is often targeted at children, and channelling health fund money into programs dedicated to NCD prevention and control. The report also demands the increased availability of quality health data which will help design effective policies.
Over the last months NCDAPA has repeatedly called for tougher measures against smoking (World No Tobacco Day 2016) and the taxation of sugar-sweetened drinks (World Health Day 2016 – Asia/Pacific at the forefront of the fight against diabetes; Big Soda, Big Problems for the Asia Pacific) as well as raised attention to the lack of reliable NCD country data (Hardly any progress on nine voluntary targets for prevention and control of NCDs in 2015). We will continue to urge Pacific governments to put more weight behind their public health policies as NCDs cause up to 77 percent of deaths in the Pacific according to the report.